$13M apartment complex breaks ground

'The Willows' moving forward

CONTRIBUTED GRAPHIC Pictured is an exterior view rendering of The Willows 58-unit apartment complex on Campbell Drive. Construction on the $13.3 million dollar, 50,215 square foot facility began earlier this week.

A much anticipated local housing project has broken ground.

Ben Daniels, president of The Willows Assisted Living and Memory Care, told the Times-Republican earlier this week construction equipment is on site in the 2000 block of Campbell Drive.

When completed in summer of 2018, the 50,215 square foot complex costing $13.3 million will offer:

• 24 one-bedroom apartments;

• 12 studio apartments; and

• Four two-bedroom apartments.

The Memory Care Center will feature:

• 16 Studio apartments;

• Two deluxe studio apartments (for two residents); and

• 4,500 square foot of garden courtyard adjacent to the wing. A private retreat for residents needing closer care.

“We are excited to see construction equipment on site,” said Daniels. “The Willows will fill a significant need for memory care and other housing. We began exploring Marshalltown as a possible location in the summer of 2015 … it is good to reach this point in the project.”

Marshalltown Mayor Jim Lowrance, second ward councilor Joel Greer, Director of Marshall Economic Development Tom Deimerly and others publicly and eagerly endorsed the project at a Board of Adjustment meeting back in December of 2015 (The role of the quasi-judicial, five-member Board of Adjustment is to hear applications related to use, variances and appeals as provided in the zoning ordinance. Consequently, the board had the authority to decline or approve the project. In November 2015, the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the project).

Supporters claimed The Willows would provide more housing choices.

Opponents said the facility would significantly lower neighboring property values, increase traffic, and could not be financially viable, among other issues.

In two presentations before the board, Daniels and his father, Bob, both of Fairfield, cited professional studies which showed assisted living/memory care needs were seriously under-served in Marshalltown.

They said local residents had found it necessary to place family members in Ames or Des Moines facilities.

In its second vote on the project, that board approved it by 3-2 vote.

Voting yes were Kelli Thurston, Dave Schulze, and Bob Wenner.

Voting no were Kevin Hitchins and G. Ward Miller, chairman of the board.

In November of 2015, the board turned down the project on 3-2 vote.

Wenner changed from “no” to “yes” on the second vote.

He had approached Director of the City’s Housing and Community Development Michelle Spohnheimer after the November meeting because he wanted to look at the project again, he said. For that reason the item was on the agenda a second time.

Wenner said the switch was a matter of getting more specific information from the developers, and at a meeting “held in a more civilized manner.”

Wenner had cited traffic concerns and visibility on the street with curves as reasons for voting no, according to the Nov. 17, 2015 minutes prepared by Spohnheimer.

Ben Daniels said 48 percent will be dedicated to apartments for rent, tailored to the needs of seniors, and 52 percent will be dedicated to expansive common space.

Among the flowers and trees, courtyards will feature walking paths, resting benches, and raised planter beds for residents.

To the north of the building will be approximately six and one-half acres of green space, inviting to wildlife and outdoor activities.

The company has experience building similar facilities in Burlington, Carroll, Fairfield, Fort Madison, Mount Pleasant and Muscatine. For more information visit willowslife.com.